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ample region, and contemplates a fairer inheritance, an inheritance his own, not in hope, but in possession. Abraham, though following the leading of Divine Providence, saw the Redeemer's day only afar off: but, in virtue of his relation to God, he has now beheld the dawning of the morning expanded into the pure light of the perfect day. He once felt the events which affected his family, with the emotion natural to a man; he has since beheld them extending their influence to nations which he thought not of; and he now looks forward in holy rapture, to that period when he, and his Isaac, and an earthly Canaan, and every thing of a temporal and transitory nature, shall bring their glory and their honour, and lay all at the feet of
Him, who sitteth upon the throne, and before the Lamb."
From Abraham we are removed to a distance of time and place, in which thought is lost, and we seem to have no more interest in him than if he had never existed. But the doctrine of the text brings us so close to him, that we recognise the friend of God, in the midst of myriads of saints in glory; we converse with him, and continue to be instructed by him.
The dust of Abraham sleeps unnoticed and forgotten in the cave of Machpelah; but lift up thine eyes, and behold Abraham on high, and Lazarus in his bosom; his spirit united to God the Father of spirits,” and to all the spirits of just men made perfect.” “And even that dust” also “rests in hope:' It shall not always be left in the place of the dead; it shall not remain forever a prey to corruption. Abraham pur-, chased a tomb, and buried his Sarah out of his sight; but he has overtaken, regained her, in the regions of eternal day, where virtuous and believing friends meet, never more to be disjoined. Abraham received his Isaac from the wonder-working hand of Heaven, when nature was dead to hope; at the command of God he cheerfully surrendered him again, and devoted him
upon the altar: again he receives him to newness of life, and that darling son lives to put his hand upon
But they were not long disunited; the son has overtaken the parents; they rejoice in God, and in one another; they are the children and heirs of the resurrection; ";hey are as the angels of God in heaven."
“ I am the God of Isaac.” This Isaac, the heir of Abraham's possessions, of his faith, and of his virtues, was, on earth, united to the God of the spirits of all flesh, by many tender and important relations: by piety, by filial confidence, by goodness, by patience and submission, on his part; by election, by special favour, by highness of destination, on the part of his heavenly Father. Yet these distinguished advantages exempted him not from the stroke of afiliction. Many ycars did this heir of the promises, this chosen seed, (in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed,” many years did he go childless. Early in life was he visited with the loss of sight, and thereby exposed to much mortification and dejection of spirit
. Children are at length given him, and they prove the torment of his life; they excite a war betwixt nature and grace in his own breast; discord and jealousy arm them against each other; he is in danger of “ losing them both in one day.” The one must be banished from his father's house, the other mingles with idolators. Behold a wretched, blind old man, a prey to “grief of heart." But these things, on the other hand, dissolved not, interrupted not his covenant relation to God: they served but to cement and strengthen the divine friendship: and death which, to human apprehension, separates every connexion, and indeed tears asunder every mortal tie, only brought him into a clearer light, and to intercourse and intimacy, which can never expire.
“I am the God of Jacob." In all the wanderings, in all the dangers, in all the distresses of this patriarch; in all his successes, all his acquisitions, all his joys, we discover the relation of God to him, expressed in these words; and we behold the presence of God with him whithersoever he went, constantly relieving the wretchedness of one state; dignifying arid supporting the felicity of the other. This gave him security from the violence of an incensed brother; this cheered the solitude of Luz, and turned it into a Bethel; by this the slumbers of a head reposed on a pillar of stone were made refreshing and instructive; this repressed and overbalanced the rapacity of Laban; this supported and sanctified the loss of Joseph; this sweetened the descent into Egypt, and dissipated the gloom of death; by this, though dead, he exists, though silent he speaketh, “absent from the body he is present with the Lord;" the moment of his departure is on the wing to overtake that of his redemption from the power of the grave. Before God, the distance shrinks into nothing. The word, the one little word, I AM, unites the era of nature's birth with that of its dissolution, it joins eternity to eternity, " and swallows up death in victory.”
The same gracious declaration applies, with equal truth and justice, to every son and daughter of faithsul Abraham,” to every “Israelite indeed.” We speak of departed friends in the past time, we scannot but remember such things were; and were most dear to us;” but it is the glorious prerogative of Jehovah to employ eternally the present in describing his own essence, and his covenant relation to his people: “I AM THAT I AM." "I AM the God of thy father,” of thy buried, thy lamented brother, friend, lover, child. And to us also is the word of this consolation sent, “Fear not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed, I am thy God.” “ Thus saith the Lord, that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel; Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by name, thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee, and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burnt; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy one of Israel, thy Saviour." Believing and resting upon this sure foundation, the christian triumphs in the prospect of “ departing and being with Christ;" he smiles at the threatening looks of the king of terrors, exuits and sings “ with the sweet singer of Israel," "yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod, and thy staff, they
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever," Psalm xxiii. 4, 6, and triumphs with the enraptured apostle of the Gentiles, “O death, where is thy sting; O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” i Cor. xv. 15, 17.
It is a transporting reflection, that the fond wishes and desires of the human heart are warranted, encour. aged and supported by the revelation of God: that the life and immortality which we naturally pant after, are brought to light by the gospel. It is pleasant find wise and good men, guided only by the light of reason, and the honest propensities of nature, cherishing that very belief, cleaving to that very hope, which the text inspires. Cicero, in his beautiful treatise on old age, while he relates the sentiments of others, sweetly deJivers his own on this subject. The elder Cyrus, according to Xenophon, thus addressed his sons before his death: “Do not imagine, O my dear children, that when I leave you, I cease to exist. For even while I was yet with you, my spirit you could not discern; but that it animated this body you were fully assured by the actions which I performed. Be assured it will continue the same, though still you see it not. The glory of illustrious men would sink with them into the grave, were not their surviving spirits capable of exertion, and concerned to rescue their names from oblivion.
I can never suffer myself to be persuaded, that the man lives only while he is in the body, and dies when it is dissolved; or that the soul loses all intelligence on being separated from an unintelligent lump of clay; but rather that, on being liberated from all mixture with body, pure and entire, it enters upon its true intellectual existence. At death, any one may discover what becomes of the material part of our frame: all sinks into that from which it arose, every thing is resolved into its first principle; the soul alone is apparent neither while it is with us, nor when it departs. What so much resembles death as sleep? Now the powers of the mind, in sleep, loudly proclaim their own divinity; free and unfettered, the soul plunges into futurity, ascends its native sky. Hence we may conclude how enlarged those powers will be, when undepressed, unrestrained by the chains of fesh. Since these things are so, consider and reverence me as a tutelary deity. But, granting that the mind were to expire with the body, nevertheless, out of reverence to the immortal gods, who support and direct this fair fabric of nature, piously, affectionately cherish the memory of your affectionate father.” The
Roman orator puts these words into the mouth of Cato, in addressing his young friends Scipio and Lælius. “ Those excellent men, your fathers, who were so dear to me in life, I consider as still alive; and indeed, as now enjoying a state of being which alone deserves to be dignified with the name of life. For as long as we are shut up in this dungeon of sense, we have to toil through the painful and necessary drudgery of life, and to accomplish the laborious task of an hireling. The celestial spirit is, as it were, depressed, degraded from its native seat, and plunged into the mire of this world, a state repugnant to its divine nature and eternal duration.” And again, “Nobody shall ever persuade me, Scipio, that your father Paullus, and your two grandfathers, Paullus and Africanus, and many other emi